This I Believe

Susan - Lakewood, Colorado
Entered on January 9, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that small things come together to make bigger ones.

When I was growing up, my grandfather repeatedly told me that “you can’t have a dollar without a penny”. The true legacy of this oft-repeated advice was more than good money management. It was a guiding principle that if we take care of the small things, the big things will take care of themselves.

I am an occupational therapist living in Colorado and I worked with one of the Columbine students eight years ago when he was going through rehabilitation. He had been literally paralyzed by bullets and violence. My daughter was three months old at the time. Today she is in second grade and was playing on the school playground as the flight-for-life helicopter carrying Emily Keyes, who had just been shot at a high school in Bailey, flew low overhead toward the hospital.

As I watch my daughter and her schoolmates, I think of my grandfather’s advice, of fitting my teenaged patient for his first wheelchair, and of Emily, whom I did not know. I wonder about the small events of violence or apathy that may have come together to create these large, fateful ones, and of the small events of peace that may or may not have been able to grow and change that fate.

So now when I am at the local elementary school or a community gathering and I see incidents of minor violence between young people, when I am confronted by seemingly minor examples of disrespect children show for themselves and others, and I see apathy or inaction among the grown-ups, I remember that small things make bigger ones. I wonder that if we don’t consistently teach peace in the small moments to all children as if our own lives depend on it, then we may one day discover that they do. I believe that if I plant small seeds of peace as an adult who cares enough to respectfully intervene instead of looking the other way when one child throws rocks at another, or makes a choice that is offensive to another community member, then that seed of peace and respect may grow with that child.

I probably won’t make big changes to the world in my lifetime, but I am working to create more peace in myself and my home, and if I, along with other parents and teachers, can carefully model peaceful actions in our schoolyards, then perhaps a larger body of peace will grow in our communities. Because if I can address the small things, they may grow into larger ones that will take care of themselves. This I believe.